Lately, I have been on a foraging craze. In preparation for my next coursework in Herbalism, I have wanted to get more familiar with the area for next season when I begin my coursework. Little do we know that there is much around us to discover, and yes to EAT!
With the following edibles, you will not only add more biodiversity and health to your diet, but you will learn to have more of an appreciation for the natural world around you, your family, friends, and larger community.
The whole plant can be eaten: leaves in salads, sandwiches or pies, while flowers (in bloom between February and November) can be used in anything from risotto to omelettes. If you can’t wait for the buds to open, they can be marinated and used like capers for flavour. Make dandelion coffee by grinding the dried roots and use as normal. It’s totally caffeine-free and has a vaguely chocolately taste. The roots can also be thrown into stir-fries or added to vegetable dishes.
RECIPES: Sauteed Greens. Try adding other greens and be sure to cook thorouhly. Add balsamic viniagrette if you find the taste too bitter, but it shouldnt be a problem if you use enough garlic, onions, salt, and pepper. Dandelion and Onion Soup.
Wild Chives, Garlic, and Ramps (Leeks)
RECIPE: Soup, Pesto, and Butter.
Purslane & Lamb’s Quarters
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Extremely photogenic flowers dapple the early spring woods with their beautiful yellow. The root bulb corms (tubers) are edible raw when peeled and cleaned. These little ones are very prevalent at my grandparents house in the woods. Granted, they live up in the northern Adirondacks, but I had to add these to the list.
RECIPE: Trout Lily Salad.
“Fiddleheads” Ostrich Fern (Pteretis pensylvanica)
The term “fiddleheads” refers to the unfurling young sprouts of ferns. Although many species of ferns are edible as fiddleheads, Ostrich Ferns are the best. They are edible only in their early growth phase first thing in the spring.
PLEASE NOTE: Most or all other fern species are either unpalatable (too tough or not very tasty) or contain high levels or carcinogens. Ostrich Ferns are the safest in that they contain the least amount of these. However, do not eat large quantities of even Ostrich ferns, as the carcinogens do accumulate over the short term.
RECIPE: Fiddlehead Tart.
Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
Other common names: Queen Anne’s Lace, Bird’s Nest
The root is edible, and tastes and most importantly SMELLS like carrots. The first year roots are the best. But be very careful not to confuse Wild Carrot with other similar species, some of which are DEADLY POISONOUS. Be sure that the plant you think is Wild Carrot actually smells like carrots. And that it is growing in a dry field.
RECIPE: Wild Carrot & Mint Stirfry.
Another plant pariah, nettles tend to be avoided thanks to their well-known propensity for leaving painful welts on the hands of the picker. But once you’ve invested in a decent pair of gardening gloves, the pros of nettles outweigh the cons. Among other things, they can be used be make tea, soup, beer and even haggis. Boiling will get rid of the sting. Packed with vitamins and minerals, nettles contain more vitamin C than oranges. Nettles should be harvested before the flowers appear in early spring and only the youngest leaves should be chosen; mature leaves can damage the kidneys. Find them in gardens, woodlands, pastures and orchards.
Wild Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Thimbleberries
Abundant, tasty and packed with vitamin C, berries are one of the easiest foods to forage. They often abound in accessible areas and there’s so much variety, you can’t go far wrong. Among the most common are blackberries, raspberries, mulberries and sloes, and uses range from juices and cordials to jams and jelly, pies and cakes, wine and gin, and ice cream. Look for berries in woodlands, hedgerows, and parks from late summer.
RECIPE: Thimbleberry Pie.
Nuts are a rich source of protein and energy for hungry foragers, but bear in mind that nuts are relied on by many birds and animals, so don’t take the lot. Forage for nuts in the autumn, keeping them dry and warm once picked. Eat them as they come or roasted. Most nuts can also be used as a replacement for protein, so work well in nut roasts and nut breads, or mixed into salads and stir-fries for extra crunch. Ground nuts can be pressed through a fine muslin bag to extract the oil, which can then be used for frying and dressing salads. Favourites include acorns, chestnuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Grubbing for pignuts was once a popular past time but is now illegal without the landowner’s permission.
To the best of our knowledge all the information contained herein is accurate and true.
However we cannot guarantee that everyone will react positively to all edible plants or other plant uses.
It is commonly known that many people suffer allergic reactions to conventional foods and products. Even amongst the more commonly eaten fruits, for example, there are plenty of instances where people react badly to them:
- Many people are allergic to strawberries and will come out in a rash if they eat them.
- Some people develop a rash if they touch the stems of parsnips.
- Potatoes become poisonous if they turn green.
- Eating large quantities of cabbage can adversely affect the thyroid gland.
In general, we believe that the overall health of people will be greatly improved by bringing more diversity into their diet and through using more natural products.
We strongly recommend the following preventative precautions when trying anything new:
- Make sure you have identified the plant correctly
- Try a small taste of anything new in your diet. If there are no side effects increase the quantity at the next meal.
- When trying new soaps or skin applications try them on a very small area before proceeding to larger areas of the body. Look for any uncomfortable reactions or changes and if there is do not proceed with further application.
No liability exists against Complete Health Circle or any member of the CHC, nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of information in this catalogue or through using any of the plants mentioned by Derek J. Healey, HHP, ARP.